Scope and Content of Collection
Language of Material:
SJSU Special Collections & Archives
Title: John C. Gordon Photographic Collection
Gordon, John C., 1887-1967
Identifier/Call Number: MSS.1996.03.29
(67 linear feet)
Date (inclusive): 1910-1963
Abstract: The John C. Gordon Photographic Collection documents the history of San José and the Santa Clara Valley from 1910 to 1963.
The collection consists of 6,000 photographic prints, 187 panorama prints, and 657 panorama negatives.
The photographic prints described are open for research. The photographic negatives in Series III are restricted due to their
Copyright is assigned to the San José State University Library Special Collections & Archives. All requests for permission
to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Special Collections. Permission for publication
is given on behalf of the Special Collections & Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include
or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader. Copyright restrictions also apply
to digital reproductions of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.
John C. Gordon Photographic Collection, MSS-1996-03-29, San José State University Library Special Collections & Archives.
Collection processed by Danelle Moon. Finding aid EAD encoded by Mary Ellen Petrich. Reviewed by Danelle Moon and Erin Louthen.
Series III processed by Michael Lara in 2018.
This finding aid was created as part of the Survey and Cataloging Project, a two-year San José State University Library grant project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The project began in 2008. The Project Director is Danelle Moon. The Project Archivist is Erin Louthen.
John C. Gordon was born in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin on January 3, 1887, the first son of Reverend G. W. Gordon. Reverend
Gordon earned his living as a photographer and as a Methodist preacher. John Gordon attended Albion College in Michigan, and
later took a teaching position in Nebraska. On June 8, 1910, he married Mina Eleanor Schnackenberg and following their wedding
reception, the couple moved to Campbell, California. Their first residence was in a prune orchard located on Budd Avenue,
and within a few years they relocated to Mayellen Avenue near West San Carlos Street. Gordon earned his early living working
at the local hardware store, while raising his young family.
In 1916 Gordon opened a commercial photography studio located at 97 South First Street in downtown San José, just above what
was then known as Lean's Jewelry Store. He later moved to 395 South Street where he remained until his retirement in 1963.
As a local commercial photographer, Gordon served the business community by creating glass slides for advertisements used
to promote local theaters, sporting events, civic events, and weddings. In addition, Gordon photographed accidents and criminal
trials for the
San José Mercury News.
An active community member and businessman, Gordon belonged to the Chamber of Commerce, the San José Water Board, and was
Master of the Campbell Grange. He also held membership in the Knights of the Round Table, served on the school board, the
YMCA, and the First Methodist Church. Gordon was a noted singer, song leader, and musician, and loaned many of his musical
instruments (piano, guitar, marimba, saxophone, and trombone) for use in Santa Clara Valley's annual Fiesta de las Rosas Parade,
as well as the school band.
John C. Gordon died at the age of 80 in 1967, and was buried in Los Gatos Cemetery next to his wife, who died in 1950. His
children, Ronald H. Gordon, Doris Herschbach, and Wilbur C. Gordon sold their father's photographic collection to San José
State University in 1996.
Scope and Content of Collection
The John C. Gordon Photographic collection documents the history of San José and the Santa Clara Valley from 1910 to 1963.
The photographic prints are organized by subject, covering a variety of topics that provide a 50-year visual history of the
region. Arranged by subject categories assigned by the photographer, the collection documents everyday life, historical context
of place and time, and illustrates changes in area business ventures that include agriculture, fruit canning and processing,
banking, local businesses, aeronautics, rail roads, and other manufacturing businesses. In addition, the collection includes
images of the Winchester Mystery House, the Lick Observatory, storefronts, hospitals, hotels, landscapes, funerals, weddings,
parks, parades, and many mixed group shots of families and local organizations.
This collection is arranged into four series: Series I. Photographic Prints; Series II. Panorama Prints; Series III Panoramic
Negatives; and Series IV. Digital Backups.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
California -- History -- Photographs.
California -- Social life and customs -- Photographs.
Santa Clara Valley (Santa Clara County, Calif.) -- History -- Photographs.